Before I left for my trip, a few friends told me I might want to look into couch surfing. It’s a website where people who can host an extra person in their house can meet people who need a place to crash or just for travelers to meet. I signed up, got verified, and was all ready to surf couches all over the world. There was just one problem. When you sign up you have zero friends and zero references, making you look like a possible shady serial killer. A couch surfing using friend recommended meeting some couch surfers for coffee or hosting a few before I moved. I wasn’t fond of having a stranger sleep two feet from my head in my shoebox of a studio nor did I have much time to even hang out with the friends I would be leaving soon. So I set off for the world, hoping I didn’t appear too terrifying to be invited into houses.
After my unexpected delay in Fortaleza, I frantically contacted couch surfers when I received my bag. I’m arriving tomorrow, could I please have a place to crash? Luckily a girl who had grown up in Jericoacoara, my next destination, was kind enough to take me on such short notice. Simone speaks only Portuguese, so we were communicating only by internet translator. This could only end well. The last message I saw when I arrived in town was:
“okay, more need to know what time you will get, because apart from 3p.m notrabalho I’ll be up to 11p.m. I’ll be waiting”
I do not speak Portuguese, but I understand a little bit of Spanish. So I took this to mean that 3 would not work, but she’d be awake till 11. How wrong I could be. Turns out she works from 3-11 most days. So I wandered around town haplessly with a huge backpack looking tired, sweaty, and lost. I ignored the random people asking me “Pousada?” (Inn), as I checked a few places and they were not very affordable. Luckily for me I ran into a capoeira roda where the teacher had been alerted by the teacher in Fortaleza that an American was arriving that wanted to train and needed help finding a place to stay. I stayed at what turned out to be a capoeira focused pousada for the night, wondering what had happened to my Couch Surfing friend that I had not heard from again.
The next morning, slightly less tired but still sweaty in the constant 90 degree heat, I received another message. Directions to a house! How exciting. After two hours of running around town looking for the world’s smallest bakery that turned out to be a doorway with a woman with a sack of bread, I finally found my new friend.
Her house was of a decent size and really clean, I’m not sure what I was expecting to find. Her profile had said she wanted to practice English but she seemed gun shy once I had arrived. We spoke with my broken Spanish, internet translators, and lots of pointing and drawing. She was my age and had grown up in the town of Jericoacoara all her life. This is particularly extraordinary because 20 years ago this city was but a fishing village with no electricity. It has since been transformed first into a hippie mecca and now into a kite and windsurfing tourism spot. I cant imagine what it must be like to live through change that fast. She told me about her adorable daughter, the long hours she works at the luxury inn, that her parents had to move to the next town over because it was more affordable.
The inns here are all run by foreigners and the locals all work for the tourism industry. It makes me sad to see the locals employed but not being able to be the owners of their own town. Simone works six days a week and makes soap for the inn during her off time. She tells me she hosts couch surfers because she cannot afford to travel but wants to meet people from all over the world. My heart breaks thinking about how we could have lived the same amount of time but have such different lives. I cannot fathom having a child now or working for the sudden influx of foreign tourism, and she is such a happy and friendly person. I wish I spoke more Portuguese so I could understand more of her life, but I am grateful for what I have seen and for her openness on accepting a new couch surfer. I hope all couch surfing hosts are this friendly and willing to share their lives.